Google has been operating in China since 2006 and censoring their search engine for the Chinese government. In December Google.cn gmail accounts were hacked by government affiliated organizations targeting free speech activists.
This quote is particularly relevant to this international issue “Do you want to be right or do you want to be effective?” I support Google for standing up for its ethics, but withdrawing from China may not be an effective long term strategy.
Below is an excerpt from their corporate blog:
First, this attack was not just on Google. As part of our investigation we have discovered that at least twenty other large companies from a wide range of businesses–including the Internet, finance, technology, media and chemical sectors–have been similarly targeted. We are currently in the process of notifying those companies, and we are also working with the relevant U.S. authorities.
Second, we have evidence to suggest that a primary goal of the attackers was accessing the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists. Based on our investigation to date we believe their attack did not achieve that objective. Only two Gmail accounts appear to have been accessed, and that activity was limited to account information (such as the date the account was created) and subject line, rather than the content of emails themselves.
Third, as part of this investigation but independent of the attack on Google, we have discovered that the accounts of dozens of U.S.-, China- and Europe-based Gmail users who are advocates of human rights in China appear to have been routinely accessed by third parties. These accounts have not been accessed through any security breach at Google, but most likely via phishing scams or malware placed on the users’ computers.
They are serious about operating in a world of open systems, free speech, and doing business in a non evil manner and this is encouraging to all entrepreneurs and individuals who are trying to fight the good fight.
Google is also trying to help their local Chinese workers be safe from government retribution and protect them from the consequences of the decision to open their search engine.
We want to make clear that this move was driven by our executives in the United States, without the knowledge or involvement of our employees in China who have worked incredibly hard to make Google.cn the success it is today.
Read the full post on blogspot.
This is a great post by web2asia and some of his points are summarized below:
Google should have stuck to their do no evil policy from the beginning, not now after 4 years of China engagements when things start to turn sour on a business level. If the findings of Googles research on the hacker attacks against Google and 30+ other foreign companies are true and were indeed initiated by the Chinese government it is not a matter that you have a corporate lawyer brazenly announce overnight on a company blog, but a political incident that should be dealt with by the State Department.
If there is one thing I’ve learned during my 4 years in China is that you don’t win in China/or in dealing with Chinese if you threaten them. You can only win if you outsmart them (just like they will try to outsmart you). By outsmart I mean that you give them an option to “save face”, a path that will lead to consensus and allow all parties to win somehow or walk away from the table without having the feeling that they’ve lost or been disrespected.
W what Google did with their unannounced blog post (and the implied ultimatum/threat) does not leave any option for the Chinese Government to save face, and paves the way for a government mandated shut down of Google.cn .
This is very unwise, unless it is indeed the goal of Google to close its doors and permanently exit the Chinese market. One unintended consequence of this action is that by going rogue Google may drag other companies into the unwelcome abyss of the Chinese government’s wrath.
I cannot imagine that anyone with experience in Chinese business culture would have issued such a statement and this will likely have a chilling effect on US Chinese political relationships.